NEW YORK (AP) _ Bruce Springsteen, the rock'n'roll idol with a common touch, demonstrated the golden touch as well as thousands of Americans paid as much as $50 for a chance to buy a collection of the Boss live.

Record stores reported an avalanche of calls and lines that snaked around corners as Springsteen's 40-song live album went on sale.

At the Record Theatre in Buffalo, manager Tom Colson said sales had been ''phenomenal'' - 800 in seven hours. At the Compact Disc Store in Baton Rouge, La., buyers were hovering over the crates as they were unpacked.

''Every call this morning has been, 'You got The Boss?''' said David Pope of Budget Tapes and Records in Charleston, W.Va.

''Everyone is coming in for it. I just saw my banker leave here with the album, and a pharmaceutical drug salesman is here now. The Republican county committeeman came in and said he wanted to make sure he got the first one I took out of the box,'' Pope said.

''I saw this when Lennon died and when Elvis died, but out of the box, a new album, I don't know. Nothing's touched this in the 15 years I've been in the business,'' he said.

''This is what working in a record store is supposed to be like. It's supposed to be fun,'' said Kenny Altman, manager of Tower Records in Greenwich Village, which sold ''Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live - 1975-85'' at cost - just under $20 for the five-record set.

In Boston, horror novelist Stephen King was among the first in line at Strawberries Records & Tapes, arriving in a limousine and leaving with three sets of records and one on compact disc.

''I got some other stuff to do, but this is most important piece of business,'' he said.

Prices in the mid-$20s were more common, while the compact discs went for about $40, with some charging as much as $50.

But the demand was huge, a product of Springsteen's popularity - at its height since the release of his last album, ''Born in the USA,'' which sold more than 11 million copies; of his legendary status as one of the world's best concert artists; and of the coming holiday gift-giving season.

At Sam Goody's in mid-Manhattan, as many as 80 people waited in line during the lunch hour for their copy of the album, some of them playing hooky from their jobs.

''I'm sick right now, at home,'' said Barbara Hogan, 23, who was first in line at the store at 8:30 a.m.

Nearby, Bruce McNaughton, 52, an executive with Time Inc., waited for the opportunity to buy three albums - ''one for my son, one for may grandson and one for me.'' He became a fan about five years ago, when his son induced him to listen to the lyrics, and ''I discovered Bruce had something to say.''

He went to a concert last year, and wants to relive the experience. ''I've seen them all - I've seen Sinatra, I've seen the Big Bands, and nothing compares with Springsteen,'' he said.